A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Next-to-Last Free Officer: Zakaria Mohieddin, 1918-2012

Zakaria Mohieddin, one of the original Free Officers of 1952 and onetime Vice President of Egypt, Prime Minister, and intelligence chief under Gamal Abdel Nasser, has died today at the age of 94. With his passing, only one of the original Free Officers from the original Revolution Command Council survives: his first cousin, Khaled Mohieddin. (In this 2010 post about Khaled I mistakenly declared him the last, under the mistaken impression — derived from the Internet — that Zakaria had died in 2009. I acknowledge the error, which is now no longer erroneous, since Khaled is now indeed the last.)

Mohieddin, left front; Nasser center at corner of table; Naguib in hat; Anwar Sadat left rear
Zakaria Mohieddin always was a presence, if a somewhat unassuming one, in the Nasser era, often used for diplomatic missions. As a young officer he served with Naguib and Nasser at Faluja in Palestine in 1958k, and became an early member of the Free Officers. While his cousin Khaled was the Revolution Command Council's most leftwing member, Zakaria was often seen as pro-Western. He was the first head of Egypt's General Intelligence Directorate when Nasser set it up in the early 1950s, but it did not become the feared instrument of Nasser's security state until under later directors. He served as Vice President from 1961-68, and Nasser was about to dispatch him to the United Nations to try to avert war when the 1967 war broke out with the Israeli pre-emptive strike. When Nasser offered to resign after the defeat he named Mohieddin his successor, but of course the crowds, and Mohieddin, refused to accept Nasser's resignation. He was also Prime Minister in 1965-66. He quit public life in 1968, and had remained in obscurity; his last public appearance seems to have been in 2002 on the 50th Anniversary of the 1952 Revolution.

SCAF paid tribute to an earlier ruling junta with Field Marshal Tantawi, Chief of Staff Gen. Enan, and other members of SCAF participating in his funeral today. 

With his passing, the only survivor of the original Revolution Command Council is Zakaria's first cousin Khaled, who is nearly 90. The last vestiges of the Nasser era are passing from scene.

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